The Celtics nearly completed a 21-point comeback against the Detroit Pistons on Friday, but came up short at the worst time possible.
Boston chipped away at the Pistons’ lead throughout the second half — even taking the lead in the fourth. But Detroit snatched the lead back with 1:20 left to play, and it was enough to claim victory in Game 1 of the teams’ two-game set.
The C’s had plenty of opportunities to retake the lead in the final 80 seconds, but couldn’t capitalize on a single one. In fact, Boston missed 11 straight shots in the final 4:15 of the game, including seven 3-point attempts.
But head coach Brad Stevens isn’t putting all the blame on their fourth-quarter play.
“I think what we did was we started off so poorly in the first half and it decreased our margin for error,” he told reporters during his postgame video conference, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Every one of those shots are way more meaningful than if we played with better substance in the first half. It might have been the basketball god’s way of saying we didn’t deserve to win the game.”
Boston got off to a slow start, and we mean slow.
The C’s put up 12 points in the first quarter and were down 15 points at halftime. And in Stevens’ mind, that was more impactful on the game’s outcome than the team’s performance in the final four minutes.
“I don’t think the last four minutes, in retrospect, I don’t think we’ll look at it with as much need for improvement as far as quality of shot as we are the start of the game.”
So, what does Stevens attribute this slow start to?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think you’re always wondering why you don’t start (well). There’s two teams playing, they obviously started well. So, that was probably a large part of it. But I thought the most obvious sign of it was our transition running offensively, and bled into the rest of the game. I just didn’t think we ran hard. We did at the end of the game, we did a good job.
“But hey, these guys are long. They’re athletic. They’re well-coached. Like, they’re going to be really hard to score on if we start offense at 14 and it’s not really crisp.”
Here are some more notes from Friday’s Celtics-Pistons game:
— Robert Williams exited the game in the fourth quarter after getting tangled up in a pile while battling for the ball.
But Stevens didn’t seem too concerned about it after the game.
“(It was) knee-to-knee,” he said. “They told me at the very end that he. could go back in if need be.”
Not a bad sign.
— There’s plenty of blame to go around for the C’s sluggish start to Friday’s game.
Jayson Tatum knew exactly where to place blame.
“The starters,” he said. “You know, myself, (Marcus) Smart, (Daniel) Theis, Tristan (Thompson), JB (Jaylen Brown), we’ve got to start the game better and set the tone for the rest of the team. The older guys? That’s on us.”
— Boston still has lots to work on with players taking on new roles and new faces adjusting to the system. So it’s no surprise they’re 3-3 after six games.
Brown knows exactly what the team must do if it wants to achieve success this season, but he’s not entirely worried about it either.
“It’s about being consistent,” he said. “So continuing to make the effort, continuing to adjust is going to be key for us. But I think we’ll be fine down the line.”
— Boston has a chance to redeem themselves Sunday in the team’s second and final game of their trip to Detroit.
Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. ET.